The first cashierless store in Japan   日本初 - 無人キオスク

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The first cashierless store in Japan, at JR Akabane station

Cashierless store

Self-service Konbini!

Last year Amazon's "Amazon Go" store in the USA made international news for being both cash and cashierless. In Japan, this new type of trade also appeared in late 2018 in a Tokyo station, and the phenomenon is rapidly taking off.

JR East was the first company in Japan to attempt this innovative concept. The "Touch To Go W / Kinokuniya" store is the first shop without a cashier or cash register, and opened in JR Akabane Station, Tokyo, on platforms 5-6.

How does it work?

As a customer, you must tap your IC card (Suica or Pasmo) to a reader at the entrance of the store to identify yourself, and the door will open automatically. Then, just take the products you want to buy and put them in your bag. At the exit, a screen will show you a list of the items you have selected and, if you agree, just tap your IC card again to deduct the total cost from your card. The exit door will then open automatically to let you leave. The process is controlled by artificial intelligence... as well as through a hundred cameras that track the movements of customers.

A victim of its own success, there's currently always a line to enter the store. So paradoxically it now takes extra staff to manage the queue!

  • Going to Japan? Why not buy your IC card before you leave?

Entrance to the cashierless store

The movement is gaining momentum

In December 2018, Fukuoka entered the fray to also launch this type of automated trade. The supermarket chain Trial Company opened the "Quick Trial" store, operating as a typical business during the day, but without staff between midnight and 5am. The customer enters the shop by identifying his or herself with a QR code or a prepaid card, and is then free to choose the items from the shelves. Cameras are integrated into the shelves and refrigerators, whose inventory management is automated, and they record information about the customer (age, sex...) and log his purchasing decisions. The registers where you pay before leaving are self-service.

The huge Japanese konbini chain, 7-Eleven has also launched its own cashierless store. The chain has partnered with electronics company NEC to create a shop only for its employees. In this particular case, it uses a facial recognition system to control entrance to the shop. The cash registers are self-service, and the value of any purchase is deducted directly from the salary of the employee. So for the moment its methods aren't yet adaptable for the general public.

Other large konbini are also in the testing phase to create their own cashierless stores. Lawson is currently in the lead, with a dozen stores in a trial period, and they have decided to adopt a payment system using smartphones. Customers first need to download an application, and then scan the barcode of the item they're purchasing. Payment is via a pre-registered credit card. So again, there's no need to queue at the register.

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